December 16, 2012
Third Sunday of Advent
Psalm: Sunday 50
Today we reach what is traditionally known as “GAUDETE” Sunday, the word taken from the old entrance antiphon, the “introit” of the Mass, which began with the Latin Word “gaudete,” REJOICE! The readings for today’s Mass have picked up this traditional theme for the Third Sunday of Advent: From the prophet Zephaniah, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! And, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!
But, we must wonder today, how does this message, “Rejoice,” sound in Newtown, Connecticut, where, as the Governor of the state said on Friday, “Today, evil has visited our community.” From CBS News on Friday night: “Police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza was armed for a mass murder when he attacked a target he knew very well. Lanza, whose mother was a teacher at Sandy Hill Elementary arrived in the school parking lot driving his mother's Black Honda. He was carrying two lethal semi-automatic handguns: a Sig Sauer, the type of gun carried by Secret Service agents, and a Glock 9mm, a model used by many police officers and federal agents across the United States. Officials say Lanza headed directly for a specific section of the school and opened fired, killing students in two classrooms. Investigators say they now believe the killing spree began at the home Lanza shared with his mother, who was a kindergarten teacher at the school. Investigators believe that this shooting was the result of a conflict between he and his mother that was developing for a long time -- killing her and then killing what she loved most -- her students.”
Once again, our nation is forced to confront in shock and anger the wickedness and evil that took, in this instance, the lives of 20 young children, as well as seven teachers and other school administrators. As we as a country seek some explanation, the principle of Ockham’s Razor is helpful. The principle suggests that, when constructing an explanation for a complex situation, begin with the simplest solution. As we consider the descriptions given, could the explanation be as simple as: it was a choice . . .that Adam Lanza chose evil?
This is strangely hard to accept. If we can find some cause, maybe the unthinkable cruelty can, at least a bit, be comprehended, but considering the circumstances, maybe the simplest answer as to why: he chose it.
It can be astonishing when we are faced with what a human person endowed with free will can do: though a person can choose good, all too often she or he chooses evil. For, if indeed we were created to know, love, and serve God, as our faith teaches, then we had to be created with the free will which permits love and service, but, as this current violence has displayed, God’s gift of free will can be perverted not to love and service, but to evil.
Where was God in all this? Could God have prevented this? We will forever wonder, but part of the answer is: no, not if He has given us the gift of free will which we need to love and serve. Because Jesus took on our humanity, we believe he was with the victims and, since this life is not the final answer, that he is caring for them still. But, in the end, the simple explanation is this: Adam Lanza chose evil. He chose the deadly sin of anger, and, as is too often the case, the innocents paid the price. He opened the door, and the reign of the Evil One inflicted his devastation.
With all this going on: With all the suffering that this evil has inflicted on the families of 20 undeserving children whose lives have been stolen from them. . . . and With the fear that such acts of evil could be chosen even in our midst, leaving us all uncertain and rattled . . . and With the hopelessness that such a display produces, shaking our confidence in the goodness of humanity. . . . How could we think, today, of saying, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart. . . Rejoice in the Lord, always, I say it again, rejoice”?
How could we do such a thing? Because we are sick. Our culture is sick. Our nation is sick. But not just our culture or our nation . . .Our world is sick. It is a sin-sick world, this veil-of-tears. And, try as we might, we can not heal ourselves—for we have been trying to do since the beginning of time.
But, we rejoice, not of course because we are sick, but because the Healer is on the way. The prophet Zephaniah said, “shout for joy, O daughter Zion. . . rejoice with all your heart” specifically because there was so much wickedness, so much evil in his day, and he rejoices because the Lord is coming to heal and save it. After lamenting all the darkness, he looks to the light and proclaims, “we are sick—the Divine Physician is coming,” the very heart of our Christmas praise. St. Paul continues the refrain not because the world is perfect, but because Love has come to conquer death and sin; God has sent the way of hope into his age and each age of a sin-sick world.
When faced with such evil, we are filled with justifiable outrage at such senseless injustice. But, we call the evil what it is: evil. And then we look, when all seems hopeless, to our single hope, God with us. And when, in the darkness, we see the light of hope, then we can rejoice. Our efforts will fail to conquer evil. . . we need help. The Good news: help has come, love has come, the Son of God, Jesus. It is clear that, because we have free will, and it can be misused, the darkness will never be fully banished from the world, until we all enter eternity.
But, on this GAUDETE Sunday, even with breathtaking evil on display, we CAN rejoice with a sure and certain hope: into the darkness, our Savior has come.